Hugh Harlin: Missing since Nov. 1, 1986

August 25, 2011 

Hugh Harlin, 51, of Morro Bay disappeared Nov. 1, 1986, while driving from San Simeon to Morro Bay. Four years earlier, his wife, Dian Harlin, had been killed in Morro Bay. No one was ever arrested in her death.

Hugh Harlin was last seen at 1:30 p.m. Nov. 1 in his 1967 Chevrolet utility bed pickup truck, according to Tribune reports at the time. He was leaving a San Simeon home where he was working as a freelance laborer to go back to Morro Bay.

A friend of Harlin's found Harlin's abandoned truck later that day.

The vehicle was parked facing north at the edge of Highway 1, just north of Burton Street.

The truck's hood was up, its doors were locked and Harlin's lunch was still inside. Also in the truck were Harlin's sleeping bag, backpack and tools.

Harlin's friends later discovered a fuel line had been removed from the truck.

Harlin may have had problems with the fuel line, removed it and began walking with it to a service station, a sheriff's department detective speculated at the time.

The Morro Bay police chief at the time, Dave Howell, and former Morro Bay City Councilman Jim Miller said in November 1986 that they believed Harlin was dead. However, both men stressed there was no way of knowing what had happened to Harlin.

"He had a lot of friends and a lot of enemies," said Miller, who was also a former Morro Bay Police Department detective and had questioned Harlin about the death of his wife four years earlier.

"I think someone has taken care of him," Miller told the then Telegram-Tribune.

Others said Harlin was a survivalist, who was capable of taking off for long periods of time and living off the land. Harlin had taken off on such outings before, but never without telling someone first.

Harlin was reported missing Nov. 4. That day, sheriff's deputies checked the area around the truck and did other investigations into the disappearance.

Four days later, a search and rescue team combed a larger area around the truck. Nothing was found.

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